Although a large majority of Cubans are yet to access the Internet, Cuban youths appear to have fallen in love with the World Wide Web. Reports say that people holding a laptop while crossing the street is becoming a common sight on the Communist island these days.
Since July this year, state-run telecom firm ETECSA has rolled out as many as 35 new Wi-Fi hotspots across the country. While the new hotspots represent an expansion of Internet connectivity for Cuban customers, it still pales in comparison to the speed and relative cost of Internet in developed countries.
New hotspots will only accommodate 50-100 users at a time with download speeds of 1 megabit per second (mbps), according to local papers. Cubans need to shell out about $2 for an hour of Internet use, still an expensive luxury in a country where average state salary is about $20 a month.
But things are changing. Last week, ETECSA announced that it would allow people in other countries to pay for Cubans’ Internet use. This may become a boon for those who have relatives abroad. That means people in the tourist industry and those who are earning tips in dollars may be able to access the Internet more easily in the days to come.
Recent research by Nearshore Americas has found a large number of technology talent in Cuba. The major hurdle standing in their way is the lack of access to the Internet. At $11.50, relatives and friends can facilitate five hours of a Cuban’s browsing, says ETECSA.
According to reports, some residents have already found out ways to beat the limited access to the Internet. Some of these people are already using Snet, short for street network, which connects some 9,000 computers in the Cuban capital to the Internet using illegal Wi-Fi routers.
These trends confirm that demand for Internet access remains in the Communist country, whose officials are worried that Information Technology might blow open their secretive regime.